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Prosecutor’s E-Mail Sent to His Lawyer on a Work Account is Privileged, Court Says

Posted Dec 15, 2009 2:06 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A federal prosecutor's e-mail to his own lawyer is privileged, even though he sent it from work on a government computer, a federal court has ruled.

Because he is allowed to use his work e-mail account for personal communications, assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel had a reasonable expectation of privacy in those personal communications, explains the U.S. District Court for the the District of Columbia in a written opinion. And because there was a reasonable expectation of privacy, they are confidential attorney-client privileged documents.

Another factor in the decision, according to the National Law Journal, is that Tukel wasn't aware that the government had access to his account and might be looking at his personal e-mail.

However, partner James Robinson of Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, who represents Tukel, called for confidentiality of work e-mail communications to be generally recognized, when they are intended to be confidential.

Access to Tukel's e-mail is being sought by a former prosecutor, Richard Convertino, who is trying to prove that he lost his job as retaliation for blowing the whistle on claimed Bush administration incompetence. He is also seeking the identity of an individual or individuals who leaked information to the Detroit Free Press about him.

Attorney Stephen Kohn represented Convertino. He could not be reached for comment by the publication.

Related earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Ex-Prosecutor Seeks Contempt for Reporter Shielding Sources"

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